Quarterback Tom Brady should consider himself the lucky one this week. He doesn't have to worry about trying to tackle his counterpart, Tim Tebow, on Sunday afternoon in Denver, though he's doing his share of ducking and dodging any and all questions regarding the NFL's newest lightning rod for debate.
"Honestly, I've been focused on their defense," Brady said of the Broncos. "I haven't watched a lot of Broncos' offense this week. I've seen all their games, and they've got a lot of good players. (Linebacker) D.J. Williams, (cornerback) Champ Bailey -- obviously I've played against him a bunch. (I have) a lot of respect for a lot of those guys on the defensive side of the ball. That's really our challenge this week. We'll let the defensive guys handle their offense."
Easier said than done. The Broncos have gone 7-1 since Tebow took over as their starter. Along the way, he's elicited a wide variety of opinions. His numbers aren't always pretty, and neither is the method in which he produces. These days, it seems people either love him or hate him; either way, they're talking about him on a daily basis, and Brady is the latest among NFL spokesmen to have to deal with the issue of "Tebowmania" sweeping its way across the league.
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"It says a lot about who they are and the way that their teammates feel about them. It's a big challenge, so it's going to be a very electric environment out there. We've had some really great games against the Broncos over the years. I'm sure this one will be no different."
As strange as it sounds, perhaps Brady sees a little bit of himself in Tebow. Brady wasn't nearly as productive in college as Tebow was with Florida, but he, too, entered the NFL somewhat under the radar. Tebow wasn't expected to be much more than perhaps an athletic tight end given his limited throwing ability and unorthodox delivery, yet here he is filling in midway through the season rescuing what appeared to be a lost year for the Broncos.
Sound familiar? Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe in 2001 and led the Patriots to the first Super Bowl title in franchise history. Tebow hasn't been nearly as efficient statistically as Brady was in 2001 -- though he did complete 18 of 24 passes in the fourth quarter of last week's win over Chicago -- but he's finding a way to win, much like Brady did 10 years ago.
"Leading your team and representing what your coach is trying to put across on the field (is important)," Brady said, "so, obviously, (Tebow) does a very good job of that."
Ultimately, Brady will focus on Denver's defense, which has played its part in this year's turnaround, perhaps more so than Tebow's influence.
Brady also needs to shake the Denver curse that has plagued him his entire career; the two-time Super Bowl MVP is 1-5 in the Mile High City.
"Oh man, that's pretty bad," Brady said. "Hopefully, we get to 2-5 this week. Maybe it's that mile-high air. I don't know. Maybe there's something to that. I don't know -- I just haven't played very well. We've had some very close games against them, but just haven't pulled it out."
For the first time in a while, the Patriots are playing a team with equally as much to play for; the Broncos are back in the playoff hunt and need every win they can get to hold off the pesky Raiders. This will have a playoff atmosphere to it, even if it's still only December.
"They're a good team," Brady said. "They've had a good team for a long time, back when coach (Mike) Shanahan was there. I think we've played a bunch of tight games with them. Hopefully, we can start to work our way to getting even."
|Denver Broncos Tim Tebow takes off running vs the Chicago Bears 12/11/2011 (Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE)|
SERIES HISTORY: 42nd regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 25-16. The two teams have played 14 times in the past 17 years despite not being division rivals. The Broncos are 27-16 lifetime against the Patriots, including 2-0 in the postseason. The last time they played was in 2009 when Denver rallied for a 20-17 overtime win after trailing 17-7 at halftime. The Patriots are 1-4 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, which is the site of Sunday's game.
Broncos have had Patriots' number in postseason
--The Broncos are the only team the Patriots have lost to twice in the playoffs. The first loss occurred in 1986 at the old Mile High Stadium. The second one took place in 2005 at then-Invesco Field at Mile High, which was QB Tom Brady's first playoff loss. He was 10-0 in the postseason until that game.
New England's 13 other playoff losses have come against 13 different teams.
--QB Tom Brady is 1-5 lifetime against the Broncos, which includes the loss in the 2005 AFC divisional playoff game. Denver is the only team Brady has a losing record against.
--WR Wes Welker (1,339) and TE Rob Gronkowski (1,088) both have more than 1,000 yards receiving this season, marking the fifth time in franchise history two players have hauled in 1,000 or more receiving yards in the same season.
Welker and Randy Moss had three consecutive seasons with 1,000 or more yards from 2007 to 2009. They became the sixth group of NFL teammates to accomplish the feat. The Patriots also had two receivers reach 1,000 yards in 1979.
--QB Tom Brady is the AFC's leading vote-getter in the most recent Pro-Bowl fan balloting, and trails only Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers in overall voting.
Welker, G Logan Mankins and DE Andre Carter are also the leading vote-getters at their respective positions. Carter recently moved past Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney on the list. The Patriots have 15 players ranked among the Top 5 in voting at their position.
--Head coach Bill Belichick offered little information on the status of injured LB Brandon Spikes (knee) and S Patrick Chung (foot).
"They're doing better," Belichick said.
Asked if he was playing it safe with either player, Belichick said, "When they're healthy, they're ready to play."
--The Patriots enter this week's game ranked 14th in the NFL in defense, allowing an average of 21.1 points per game.
The Patriots have finished in the Top 10 in fewest points allowed for the past five seasons and in eight of the last 10 years. Under Belichick, the Patriots have never finished worse than 17th among the 32 teams in points allowed.
--Strangely enough, P Zoltan Mesko is getting kudos these days in Foxboro for his work on defense.
The second-year punter has worn a black jersey at practice this week, signifying he was one of the team's most valuable practice players last week. Mesko helped the cause by using his 6-foot-4 to disrupt passing lanes in practice.
"I was asked to do what my lanky body can do," Mesko joked.
BY THE NUMBERS: 42 -- The number of regular-season 300-yard passing games by QB Tom Brady, a team record.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You win that many games, and put your team in position to do what they've been able to do ... I think if it happened here they'd be doing the same thing. Obviously, he's gotten things straightened out over there and put them in a really good position." -- LT Matt Light on whether he's surprised by all the attention Denver QB Tim Tebow has received.
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